When Greg Packer parked up on Fifth Avenue at 5:00 am on a June morning in 2007, he would have never envisioned being the first person to put a knife into many of the biggest telecommunication companies of the 21st century. So why was Packer there? Five months earlier he had sat and watched the CEO of Apple Inc. (AAPL) – a $65 billion company – stand in front of a crowd to unveil a new idea.
"Today, we’re introducing three revolutionary products of this class. The first one: is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second: is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. An iPod, a phone, and an internet communicator. An iPod, a phone … are you getting it? These are not three separate devices, this is one device, and we are calling it iPhone," the late Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple said.
Packer was outside the store on Fifth Avenue, 110 hours before the first iPhone went on sale. He is credited with being the first person to buy the first iPhone, the first ever smartphone and arguably the most important device of the 21st century. Ten years and ten later, the revolutionary smart device has upended the technology ecosystem and shuttered more than one company. (See also: Apple's Curse May Be The Success of The iPhone.)
Founded in 1984, BlackBerry Ltd (BBRY) was one of the leaders in advanced phone space, releasing the BlackBerry 850 in 1999, which had email capability. In 2006, before the unveiling of the first ever iPhone, BlackBerry released its Pearl device. With camera and multimedia capabilities, investors warmed to the Pearl and shares in BlackBerry closed 2006 just shy of $50 a share, an all-time high at the time.
A year later BlackBerry became the most valuable company on the Toronto Stock Exchange, its share price traded to $150 as subscribers exceeded 10 million. However, this would be the peak for the Toronto-based communications company. After the disappointing response to its new Curve model and the hype around the new Apple iPhone, its share price more than halved in the second half of 2008, aided by the beginning of the financial crisis.
As the stock market recovered after the Great Recession, BlackBerry couldn't, and its stock began a precipitous decline. From the lofty heights of $150 a share, BlackBerry hit an all-time low of $5.79 in December of 2013. Three months earlier the company laid off 4500 staff and announced Fairfax media had acquired it, ironically the same month Apple launched its new 5S and 5C.
Relative performance: Apple v Samsung v Nokia v BlackBerry v Motorola (Source: Factset)
Founded in 1865, Finnish-based Nokia (NOK) began as a pulp mill but went on to become the titan of mobile communication beginning in the 1980s. Its first big leap into mobile communications was in 1984 when it acquired Salora and renamed its mobile communications unit to Nokia-Mobira Oy. In 1987 the company launched the first ever hand-held mobile telephone, the Mobira Cityman 900 and despite weighing over 1.5 pounds (the iPhone 7 Plus weighs 188 grams) and selling for over $5,000, it flew off the shelves. (See also: Behind Nokia's 70% Drop in 10 Years.)
Nokia continued to flourish into the 1990s with the introduction of the Nokia 1011. It was the first hand-held GSM phone and could store up to 99 contacts and make a call lasting 90 minutes. The phone could also send and receive SMS messages.
As the 21st century came around, Nokia continued to thrive. Its share price traded through $50 in 2000 as it remained ahead of its rivals. In 2003 it introduced the Nokia 1100, which remains the world's best-selling phone, with over 250 million sold. It is probably best remembered for the game Snake.
However, like many of the others, 2007 was the beginning of the end. If the euphoria of the iPhone wasn't enough, Nokia had to recall 46 million phones in 2007 due to faulty batteries. From here shares in the Finnish company spiraled out of control falling every consecutive year until finally bottoming out below $2 a share in 2012. The following year Nokia announced it was selling its devices division to Microsoft. (See also: Can Nokia Make A Comeback?)
Founded in 1928, Illinois-based Motorola Solutions Inc (MSI) pioneered the two-way radio communication used by military and other first responders. However, Motorola had its foray into the mobile device market and also became the victim of the iPhone.
In the mobile phone market, Motorola is best known for the iconic RAZR flip-phone but its bread and butter was always two-way radio technology. BlackBerry's technology and the popularity of its devices began to compete with Motorola's two-way communication system. In 2010, Blackberry partnered up with Twisted Pair Solutions to develop an app that turns the phone into a two-way radio. Despite the competition, Motorola's still remains an integral player in the two-way radio market, especially in public services.
In the early to mid-2000s when Motorola cranked up its mobile phone game it was too late. Despite adding the MP3 player with its ROKR model, its market share continued to fall, and when the iPhone hit the scene the decline accelerated. However, unlike BlackBerry and Nokia, shares in Motorola steadied after the crisis as it teamed up with Google to use its Android operating system. (See also: Motorola Unveils Command Center of the Future.)
Motorola has also squared off against Apple in the courts with a number of cases and counter cases bought against one and other over patent infringements.
Motorola remains a profitable company, reporting a Q1 net income of $77 million on sales of $1.28 billion, according to FactSet data. However, its foray into the mobile phone market was stifled by the giant that is Apple.
Finally, one company that the iPhone company hasn't put to bed is Samsung. The maker of the Galaxy is the only one of the companies mentioned earlier thats stock price is higher than it was July 29, 2007, the day Apple released the first iPhone.